• pastoral •
Pronunciation: pæs-tê-rêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Rural, about or related to the country or countryside, hence, rustic, simple, serene, bucolic, halcyon: a pastoral scene. 2. About or related to a pastor, pastoral duties, or the church in general: pastoral lands. 3. About or related to herdsmen or shepherds or their work.
Notes: Today's Good Word is supported by several derivational family members: an adverb, pastorally, and two nouns, pastorism "works written or composed about the countryside", and pastorale [pæs-tê-ræl], a musical composition designed to evoke a sense of the countryside.
In Play: Pastoral is used in reference to the country as opposed to the city: "Reverend McGillicutty became the pastor of a pastoral church nestled in the hills just outside New Monia, Tennessee." However, under the assumption that it is more peaceful in the country, the word is perhaps more frequently encountered in its figurative sense: "Pierce Deere moved out of town to find pastoral calm, but ten years later his house is surrounded by an ever-growing housing development."
Word History: This word comes directly from Old French pastoral, inherited from Latin pastoralis "related to shepherds". The Latin word for "shepherd" was pastor, a word English Protestants use to refer to the preacher in a church. This word, in turn, is derived from pastus, the past participle of pascere "to graze, eat", which is why we see it in English pasture. The Proto-Indo-European word pat- "to feed, protect" came to English via its Germanic ancestors, too. In Old English it became fodor "fodder", which lies behind forage. Foster comes from another relative of fodor, the Old English verb fostrian "to feed, nourish, care for". (Let us wish Martha Summey a worry-free pastoral life as we thank her for suggesting today's bucolic Good Word.)